In conventional parlance, vanity is the excessive belief in one’s own abilities or attractiveness to others. Prior to the 14th century it did not have such narcissistic undertones, and merely meant futility. The related term vainglory is now often seen as an archaic synonym for vanity, but originally meant boasting in vain, ie. unjustified boasting; although glory is now seen as having an exclusively positive meaning, the Latin term gloria (from which it derives) roughly means boasting, and was often used as a negative criticism.
For the believer, a question of faith always has the same fundamental answer. It is prevalent and wholesome. It is maintained with dutiful consistency and presented with the utmost of care, just as one may handle a precious gemstone. It is beautiful in all of its defiant simplicity.
It is interesting to observe how the same question can so easily slip into various degrees of complexity when directed to an audience characterized by a decisive lack of faith. For the unbeliever, a question of faith quickly becomes a recursive inevitability. It festers and seethes. It evolves. Its latest incarnation messily slithers into the open from around every corner and embeds an unforeseen barb into the side of incredulity. It is a blessed abomination, and I can’t help but embrace it.
Faith is precious. It is something I have always possessed, and I would even go so far as to propose that it is an inherent aspect of human nature. Those who deny ever having faith in something outlandish only succeed in denying themselves. Faith is indestructible. In all of its strength, however, faith consisently fails to overcome the more primitive boundaries of basic human will. At one’s own discretion it is possible to render faith infinitely malleable. Consciousness and perspective permit the individual to bend faith in every conceivable fashion. We can embrace and embellish it if we so desire. We can also cast it aside and submit it to every perverse punishment imaginable.
One of my life’s greatest joys is the perpetual disfiguration of personal faith. Every day I can feel it pulsing within me like some sort of malignant growth. I understand its desire to merge with me – to grow fat and moist and decadent. I take a delicate pleasure in inflicting torment upon it. In any given moment I may choose to mercilessly grind it further into the dirt with divine impunity. I constrict. I pummel. I cut it to the bone and sew it back together again. With each passing day I impose my will and leave it to fester and bleed in a pool of its own putrid discharge. I find it to be a magnificently fitting fate for that which enslaves so many others around me.
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
Faith is a lesser answer for the more prominent flaw of ignorance. Just as sentience tempts us to question the world around us, faith most commonly manifests as a sort of universal bond. Many seek to utilize faith in order to form an illusion of unity among the few disjointed facts mankind may establish through the systematic study of its environment. Until we can form a more comprehensive understanding of the world around us there will always be those who seek to fill the gaping holes with providential ideals. The unadulterated apathy of this approach demands a viable alternative.
Faith may be many things, but it is not a prerequisite for knowledge that cannot be denied. Before faith there is but one irreversible truth from which all things stem – the power of the self. Attainment of all things, however improbable, rests upon the realization that individual strength is paramount. This is the place where we may cast the boundary between dreams and reality into obscurity. This is the place where God can die.
As a Christian there is no need to try to understand the beliefs of the faithless. We believe in everything you can’t bring yourself to face. We serve to empower that which you cast aside. We answer a question with a question.
What do you fear?